Burying The Past At Brompton Cemetery

Opened in 1840, Brompton Cemetery in West London covers an area of 39 acres, and sits just a couple of hundred yards away from Chelsea Football Club.

In terms of its design it’s possibly the grandest of the ‘magnificent seven’ Victorian cemeteries – cutting through the middle of the cemetery there is a long avenue that provides fantastic sight lines from the pretty chapel at the southern end to the imposing gatehouse on Old Brompton Road and a colonnade and ‘grand circle’ which comprises covered passageways that conceal a complicated network of catacombs beneath. There’s also an enclosed military section at the cemetery with a large white marble cross at its centre – have  a look at the carvings on the markers and you’ll note that soldiers from just about every British regiment are represented here.

In common with London’s other Victorian cemeteries, Brompton houses the remains of some very important historical figures – Beatrix Potter, Lord Byron, Emmeline Pankhurst and others can be found if you explore. Some of these famous internments are quite modest in comparison to the huge tombs of the bankers and industrialists – Dr John Snow, for example, famous for his founding work in epidemiology (and who has a recently controversial pub named after him on Broadwick St in Soho) is commemorated by a rather simple draped urn near the gatehouse.

On my visit, I did make some other interesting discoveries – between two of the sections of the grand circle you’ll find a sandstone cross with lavender growing next to it that features a wolf carving at its centre – this was the gravesite of Long Wolf, the Sioux Indian chief who succumbed to illness while travelling with Buffalo Bill in 1892. His remains have now been returned to his ancestral burial grounds in South Dakota, but the vigilant wolf remains. Very recent deaths are also commemorated in various spots around the cemetery – the military memorial dedicated to the Royal Marines has a little teddy bear tied to its base at the moment, and I presume that this marks the recent loss of a loved one in Afghanistan…

The Cemetery has recently been reopened for the burial of cremated remains, so do bear this in mind if  you visit – I always find that I get the best of out walking around these spaces by being quiet and contemplative. You can see the rest of the photographs that I took on my visit here, and if you want a sneak preview of what its like to walk around in Brompton Cemetery, it is featured in 2009′s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ movie in the scene where they discover that the body of Blackwood has been spirited away.

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About The Londoneer

Pete Stean is a keen blogger, amateur photographer, singer and ham radio enthusiast in his spare time...